Home Digestive system Anal cancer: Causes, symptoms and trertment

Anal cancer: Causes, symptoms and trertment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Anal cancer occurs in the anus at the end of the gastrointestinal tract. It is different and less common than colorectal cancer or colon or rectum cancer. Sometimes anal cancer does not cause any symptoms, and sometimes the first sign of the disease is bleeding. But how do you know if I have anal cancer and if other diseases, such as hemorrhoids, are benign and quite common causes of rectal bleeding? In this FastlyHealarticle, we answer this question and explain everything about the symptoms, causes, treatment, prevention, and prognosis of this disease.

Causes of anal cancer

In anal cancer, the tumor is created by the abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the anus. The anus is the area at the end of the gastrointestinal tract. The anal canal connects the rectum with the outside of the body; it is surrounded by a muscle known as the anal sphincter. The sphincter controls bowel movements by contracting and relaxing.

The anal canal is covered with squamous cells. These flat cells look like fish scales under a microscope. Most anal cancers develop from these squamous cells; such cancers are known as squamous cell carcinomas.

The point where the anal canal meets the rectum is called the transition zone. The transition zone has squamous cells and epithelial cells. The latter produces mucus, which helps stool pass through the anus without problems.

Most anal cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, but adenocarcinoma (a malignant tumor of a glandular epithelium) can also develop from epithelial cells in the anus.

How to know if I have anal cancer – symptoms

Commonly, anal cancer can cause the following symptoms:

  • Visible rectal bleeding in stool or toilet paper.
  • Pain in the anal area.
  • Lumps around the anus can be mistaken for hemorrhoids.
  • Mucous or thick discharge from the anus.
  • Anal itching
  • Changes in bowel movements include diarrhea, constipation, and thinning of the stool.
  • Fecal incontinence or trouble controlling bowel movements.
  • Swelling.
  • Women may experience vaginal dryness and low back pain as the tumor presses on the vagina.

Anal cancer treatment

Treatment of anal cancer will depend on several factors, including the size of the tumor, whether it has spread, where it is, and the patient’s general health. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy are the main options:

  • Surgery: The type of surgery depends on the size and position of the tumor.
  • Resection: The surgeon removes a small tumor and some surrounding tissue. This can only be done if the anal sphincter is not affected. After this procedure, the person will still be able to have a bowel movement.
  • Abdominoperineal resection: The anus, rectum, and a section of the intestine are surgically removed, and a colostomy will be established. In a colostomy, the end of the intestine rises to the surface of the abdomen. A bag is placed over the stoma or opening. The bag collects the stool outside the body. A person with a colostomy can lead an everyday life, play sports, and be sexually active.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy: Most patients will likely need chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both. Radiation therapy can be combined with chemotherapy to kill anal cancer cells.

Treatments can be given together or one after the other. This approach increases the likelihood of keeping an intact anal sphincter. Survival and remission rates are reasonable. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy have adverse effects, and their combination can make the side effects more severe.

Chemotherapy uses drugs that stop cancer cells from dividing. They are administered orally or by injection.

Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays that kill cancer cells. Radiation can be given internally or externally.

Anal cancer: life prognosis

Anal cancer is diagnosed according to its stage. The prognosis depends on the location of which the patient is.

A common way to stage cancer is 0 to 4. In stage 0, cancer cells are only in the top layer of anal tissue. This is also known as Bowen’s disease. In stage 4, cancer has spread throughout the body.

The chance of surviving another five years or more after diagnosis depends on the stage and type of cancer. In the United States, the survival rate according to the location is:

  • Stage 0: 79% if the cancer is squamous cell and 59% if it is adenocarcinoma.
  • Stage 1: 64% if the cancer is squamous cell and 52% if it is adenocarcinoma.
  • Stage 2: 48% if the cancer is squamous cell and 38% if it is adenocarcinoma.
  • Stage 3: 43% if the cancer is squamous cell and 24% if it is adenocarcinoma.
  • Stage 4: 21% if the cancer is squamous cell and 7% if it is adenocarcinoma.

Anal cancer prevention

Anal cancer is rare, but certain practices can help minimize the risks of getting it. Some of these recommendations are:

  • Reduce the chance of getting HPV by getting vaccinated.
  • Use condoms when having sex.
  • Limit the number of sexual partners.
  • Refrain from having anal sex.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to How to know if I have anal cancer , we recommend that you enter our Digestive System category .

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